Mulgrew Miller and Wingspan: The Sequel (2002)
As prolific he is as a sideman, pianist Mulgrew Miller’s own catalog as a leader is rather scant, making the release of The Sequel all that more welcome. As a bit of clarification, it should be noted that the reprise the album’s title suggests refers to Wingspan, the name of Miller’s ensemble and his 1987 Landmark release of the same name. However, vibraphonist Steve Nelson seems to be the only returning member of the ensemble from the group’s original incarnation. This fact is not at all disconcerting considering that Miller has surrounded himself this time out with Steve Wilson, Duane Eubanks, Richie Goods, and Karriem Riggins, all accomplished musicians on their respective instruments.
The title track has that kind of relaxed groove that Miller seems to toss off with deceptive ease. With a bit of Tyner and the inherent blues factor prominent in the work of such guys as Wynton Kelly, Miller lets his story unfold in long phrases that come to logical conclusions. His ballad work, like on “Holding Hands” and “Dreamsville,” is sharp in its bell-like clarity. So too the tender but never maudlin treatment he provides a trio rendering of “It Never Entered My Mind.” Still, Miller is a consummate accompanist and the support he provides the soloist and the way he complements the ensemble passages speaks to his inherent mastery.
Both Steve Wilson and Duane Eubanks serve secondary roles here in voicing the melodies, with a few solo moments dolled out here and there. It’s really Miller and Nelson who get the lion’s share of the space and this work overall constitutes some of the best efforts in recent memory. Recorded by Joe Ferla with a nice warmth and ambience, The Sequel is an excellent addition to the Miller catalog and hopefully the start of a new spate of recording activity for the pianist as a leader of Wingspan.
Track Listing: Go West Young Man, The Sequel, Elation, Holding Hands, Know Wonder, Dreamsville, Spectrum, It Never Entered My Mind, Just a Notion, Samba D'Blue
Personnel: Mulgrew Miller (piano), Steve Nelson (vibes), Steve Wilson (alto and soprano sax), Duane Eubanks (trumpet), Richie Goods (bass), Karriem Riggins (drums)